Sunday, August 24, 2014

EBOLA: FG’s ₦1.9 billion intervention fund at risk of diversion – NMA, Falana cry out

Some concerned stakeholders have urged the Federal Government to shun the temptation of diverting the N1.9bn set aside for the containment of the spread of the deadly Ebola virus. President Goodluck Jonathan had, on August 8, 2014, approved the release of N1.9bn as the Ebola intervention fund. But two weeks after the presidential directive, the fund had yet to be released.

The Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, had said on Wednesday that the Federal Government had released N200m to the Lagos State Government. But on Thursday, the minister said in a statement that the N200m was not part of the N1.9bn Ebola intervention. The Nigerian Medical Association, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, and some activists warned the Federal Government against diverting the intervention fund, according to report from The Punch.

The NMA Secretary-General, Dr. Adewunmi Alayaki said that people should avoid the temptation of seeing the outbreak of the Ebola virus as an opportunity to enrich themselves. The NMA secretary-general claimed that there had been instances in which funds allocated to fight diseases did not get to the end users. Alayaki said, “We have seen a lot of cases in which money will be released and it will not get to end users. Whatever is allocated to fight Ebola, let that money be used for the purpose.

“People will want to take advantage of what is going on to enrich themselves. That is not the best. What we are saying is that the money should be released to the end users.” Also, Falana asked Nigerians to demand accountability from the government on how the money would be spent. It is believed that the money can be diverted for funding the President’s re-election bid, the same concern which they expressed about the $1bn loan being requested by the Federal Government to fight insurgency. Falana said, “It is embarrassing that the Federal Government has not released the money.

The President himself said the situation was critical and then declared emergency against the Ebola disease. The Federal Government should release the funds to the state governments in the interest of the health of Nigerians which requires the full attention of the government. “If that is not done as soon as possible, some of us may compel the government to release the fund.”

He said the money might not necessarily have been diverted for Jonathan’s re-election bid, but added that government could just be waiting for the disease to disappear and then direct that the money be returned to the treasury. This, he said, had been the manner of Federal Government’s handling of the national budget.

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